24th Oct2017

‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Review

by Guest

Review by Matthew Turner

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Taika Waititi | Written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost | Directed by Taika Waititi

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After sixteen superhero movies, audiences and critics are used to seeing Marvel Studios’ director choices pay off in spectacular fashion, but that success reaches new heights with their decision to have New Zealand comedy director Taika Waititi helm Thor: Ragnarok. The writer-director behind What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople proves the perfect match for the Thor franchise and his unique brand of droll, deadpan humour is present in every frame, resulting in one of the funniest Marvel movies to date.

After defeating fiery demon Surtur (Clancy Brown) in a fun pre-credits sequence, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns home to Asgard, where he quickly exposes his trickster brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who’s been posing as their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Locating Odin on Earth, Thor and Loki are shocked when he reveals that he’s dying, and that his death will release his vengeful first-born child Hela (Cate Blanchett), who plans to conquer the universe.

However, during a battle with Hela, Thor finds himself stranded on the planet Sakar, where he’s captured by The Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and forced to compete in a galactic Contest of Champions run by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), in order to earn his freedom. There’s just one problem: Thor’s opponent is none other than his mean, green former teammate, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

Thor: Ragnarok is packed full of humour at every turn. Whether it’s the deadpan dialogue, the witty character interactions or the inclusion of several delightful sight gags, Waititi brings a certain irreverence to the film that works brilliantly. His approach is best illustrated by the way he undercuts the delivery of a particularly heroic line on two separate occasions, and gets big laughs both times.

Waititi also does a fine job on the fight sequences, ensuring that you can actually see who’s hitting who and with what, as opposed to chopping everything up with blurry, rapid-fire editing, a trap that other action movies fall into all too frequently. In addition, the film looks terrific, embracing the colourful space aesthetic of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, with a hint of Flash Gordon-style kitsch thrown in for good measure.

Hemsworth is a joy to watch as Thor, his performance a perfect blend of beefcake physicality and warm humour, offset with just a hint of buffoonish arrogance. His back-and-forth chemistry with Hiddleston’s Loki is one of several comic highlights, as is his relationship with both Ruffalo’s Banner, both in and out of Hulk form.

The supporting cast are equally good fun. Goldblum delivers exactly the performance you’re hoping for as the Grandmaster (that is to say, his standard comic persona, only turned up to 11), while Tessa Thompson brings a smouldering swagger to her role as the embittered, hard-drinking Valkyrie (although her early drunken pratfall is one of the few jokes that falls flat).

However, Thor: Ragnarok‘s biggest scene-stealer turns out to be the director himself, in a hilarious, buried-under-CGI turn as imprisoned blue rock monster Korg (a character from the Planet Hulk comics), who speaks with a thick New Zealand accent and laments that his revolution failed because he didn’t print enough pamphlets. There’s also colourful support from Waititi regular Rachel House, as Grandmaster’s moody security guard, Topaz. And, of course, there’s the expected cameo from Stan Lee, who puts in one of his best appearances to date.

The film’s most significant achievement (at least as far as legions of comics fans are concerned) is that it finally gets the character of the Hulk right, giving him both an increased vocabulary and a measure of personality that’s much more consistent with the character on the page. It’s a decision that pays off brilliantly, making every Hulk line instantly quotable. Here’s hoping that the decision sticks and that the characterisation carries over into his future appearances.

Put simply, Thor: Ragnarok is a thunderously good time, delivering exciting comic-book action, genuine emotion and laugh-out-loud humour. Highly recommended.

Thor: Ragnarok is in UK cinemas now.

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